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1 Peter: The Mystery of Salvation (1:10-12)

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the mystery of salvation

After talking about the salvation we are receiving, and looking forward to, Peter takes a look back at those who initially wrote about it. The Old Testament prophets wrote under the inspiration of God. But that does not mean they always fully understood the message God gave to them. Peter says that they searched intently to understand the mystery of salvation that they wrote about. But it was kept hidden until it was fulfilled in Christ.

Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.

1 Peter 1:10-12 NIV

Concerning This Salvation

This salvation that Peter is referring to here has already been mentioned twice in his letter. In verse 5 he talked about the salvation that will soon be revealed; a look ahead to something yet to come. And in verse 9 he said that we are receiving the goal of our faith; the salvation of our souls. In this second usage, salvation seems to be a present, and growing, reality. It is something that we are receiving, as well as something that we will receive.

What is this salvation that we are both receiving and looking forward to? The present tense salvation would seem to be the transformation of our lives from death to life. We were dead in our sins (Eph. 2:1). We are being transformed more and more into the likeness of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18). We are being delivered from death into life.

The salvation we are looking forward to is deliverance from this world and its coming judgment. And not just deliverance, but a whole new life. We have an inheritance kept waiting for us in heaven. That inheritance is ours now. But we do not get to fully experience it in this life.

The Prophets Who Spoke of the Grace to Come

Peter here is referring to the Old Testament prophets; Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc. The prophets who delivered a message from God to the nation of Israel. Typically a message concerning the need to repent and the punishment that would follow from non-repentance. And often mentioning a coming restoration. But what did they have to say about the grace that has come to me?

Clearly, if Peter is writing to Gentiles, he understands the message of the prophets to also apply to us. They did not write just to the Jewish nation. They also wrote to the Gentiles who were included in God’s plans. The words of hope given to Israel by the prophets were also words of hope to us. God’s grace which was extended to Israel, is now also extended to believing Gentiles. Even as God is giving a message of hope to Israel, he is looking ahead to the inclusion of the Gentiles.

It is clear from this passage that the Old Testament prophets did not always understand the message they were delivering. Peter said that they had earnestly sought understanding concerning that message; when and how it would be fulfilled. And it appears that message was still a mystery until after the resurrection of Jesus.

Luke 24:13-35 is the account of Jesus appearing to two disciples as they returned home after Jesus’ crucifixion. In verse 27 it says that “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” Maybe for the first time in history, the mystery of the prophetic message about Christ was explained and known.

What were these passages that looked forward to the sufferings of Christ? I am sure there are many that I am unaware of, but the suffering servant passages in Isaiah clearly fall into that category. Isaiah 52:13-53:13 in particular is one that we see clearly pointing to Christ. But to Isaiah, it would have been a profound mystery. A mystery that he likely searched out the meaning of.

Serving Us

But somehow the Holy Spirit made clear to them that the time for understanding had not yet come. Something similar happens to Daniel. In Daniel 10-12, he is given a vision of the future for Israel. In Daniel 12:8 he asks for understanding. And in the following verse, he gets his answer. Understanding is being withheld until the time of the end. I have no doubt that the other prophets experienced something similar.

And they were assured that what they were saying would have value for future generations; for those alive at the time their message points to. That message was made known to Jesus’ apostles, and they in turn have made it known to us. This is at least in part what Paul refers to when he speaks of the mystery that has now been unveiled. It is “the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past” (Rom. 16:25). The mystery of salvation.

Even Angels

The last expression in this passage is very interesting. “Even angels long to look into these things.” Angels are a bit of a mystery. Clearly, they are created beings. Colossians 1:16 makes clear that Jesus created all things, including those in the spiritual realm. And their role, according to Hebrews 1:14, is to minister to God’s elect. But beyond that, it is hard to know anything definitely. God did not see fit to satisfy our curiosity concerning angels.

But if they are ministering spirits, then they have an interest in what is happening on Earth. And this verse would indicate that they were somewhat in the dark concerning God’s plan. It is clear that the spirits who rule in this age, referred to in 1 Corinthians 2:8, did not understand the significance of Christ’s crucifixion. So it stands to reason that God’s unfolding plan was kept secret even from the angels who were faithful to him.

This paints a picture of angels trying to figure out what was going on, even as they faithfully served God, and us. Angels who may have mourned at the cross. But rejoiced mightily at the resurrection. And even more so as they saw the unfolding of God’s plan. The redemption and regeneration of those who place their faith in the resurrected Christ.

About the Old Testament

What we today call the Old Testament was the Bible for the early church. It was all they had in written form. But they also had the teaching of the apostles. Men to whom the Holy Spirit revealed the mystery hidden in the writings of the prophets. The prophets who foretold “the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.” And the teachings of the apostles help us to see the Old Testament in a new light.

Do we still need the Old Testament today? Is not the New Testament sufficient for the believer in today’s world? I would argue that the Old Testament still has value. It is part of the inspired word of God (2 Tim. 3:16), the word that was the Bible of the early church. It contains the history of God’s interaction with the world and with his people. And, it clearly identifies the problem that Christ came to solve; human sin and self-centeredness.

Take time to read and study the Old Testament. And try to see it from the perspective of those to whom it was originally written. It had a specific message to them. Indeed some of it also looked forward to Christ, and to us. But if we fail to put ourselves in their shoes as we read, we will likely misunderstand its message.

Take Aways

  • What was it that the Old Testament prophets sought so intently to discover?
  • How does Peter understand salvation? Is it just something that happened in my past? Or is there more to it?
  • What is the proper way to understand the Old Testament?

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Ed Jarrett

Just an old clay jar that God continues to see fit to use in his kingdom's work. I am retired, married with 2 children, and 4 grandchildren. I have followed Jesus for many years. And I love to share what He has given me from His word.

A Note to Readers

The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.

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